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Street Mobility in South America

Two members of the Street Mobility project (Prof. Jenny Mindell and Dr. Paulo Anciaes) received a UCL Santander Research Catalyst Award to visit three South American countries (Colombia, Brazil, and Chile) to present the results of the Street Mobility project; disseminate the findings of the project and the Street Mobility toolkit; and to meet with local researchers, with the aim of creating partnerships for future collaboration on transport and health topics.

We visited four cities (and six universities): Bogotá (Universidad Nacional de Colombia and Universidad de Los Andes), São Paulo (Universidade de São Paulo), Santiago (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and Universidad San Sebastian) and Temuco (Universidad de La Frontera). In these cities, we met with researchers from a variety of fields, such as public health, physical activity, physiotherapy, transport engineering and planning, urban studies, and urban design.

The main event in each city was a half-day public seminar attended by practitioners, policy-makers, researchers, and graduate students. In these seminars we presented the methods and results of the Street Mobility project. Prof. Jenny Mindell gave an overview of community severance as a transport and health issue and Dr. Paulo Anciaes presented the main output of our project, the Street Mobility toolkit. Local researchers also presented some of their work on transport and health. All the presentations can be downloaded from our website here.


Flyer of the Santiago seminar


  Media interest after the Temuco seminar

In each city, after the public seminar, we held workshops with a smaller group of local researchers, where they talked at length about the main transport and public health issues in their cities. We then identified common interests and explored possible ideas for future research and possibilities for funding this research.


Working lunch in Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá                


Final group photo at Universidad de La Frontera, Temuco

We also made walking and cycling visits to see (and use) transport infrastructure that promotes active travel, health, and wellbeing. In Bogotá, we cycled in the Ciclovía, an initiative where 120 km of main roads are closed off to motorised traffic on Sunday mornings. We participated in a similar initiative in Santiago, the CicloRecreoVia. In Santiago we also joined local city officials on a walking tour of areas in the city centre where policies are being implemented to tame motorised traffic and improve the conditions for pedestrians. In Temuco, we cycled along the city’s extensive cycle lane network. In São Paulo, we joined local researchers and practitioners in a visit of São Miguel Paulista, an area where there are plans for a complete redesign of the street network to promote walking. We then met with the local mayor.


Joining the CicloRecreoVia in Santiago


Meeting the mayor of São Miguel Paulista, São Paulo 

At the invitation of the Dean of the Faculty of Health Science of Universidad San Sebastian, Prof. Jenny Mindell also delivered a public lecture at that university, talking about health examination surveys in England and the Americas plus a short overview of community severance.

We also held meetings with representatives of the British Consulate and the British Council in Bogotá to discuss possible opportunities for funding future projects.

Last but not least, we met with UCL alumni in Bogotá, São Paulo, and Santiago in lively social events, and we exchanged ideas with these members of the UCL community.

In the coming days, we will publish three further posts describing the main themes that came out from the activities in the three countries. The starting point of the activities was the issue of community severance but in all cities visited, our discussions with local researchers and other stakeholders evolved to cover related topics on transport and health, such as physical activity, exposure to noise and air pollution, trip quality, trip-related stress, fear of crime, public transport provision, urban sprawl, design of public places, and above all, social equity.

We hope that this trip becomes the starting point of a common understanding of the key objectives of future research on urban transport and health in South America, and of the possible means to secure funding to implement that research.


Chalkboard full of ideas after the São Paulo workshop



During January, the Street Mobility team presented some updated results from the project at national and international conferences and national meetings.

Street Mobility @ UTSG 2016, Bristol

In the first week of January four Street Mobility team members presented their work at the 48th Annual Universities’ Transport Study Group (UTSG) conference in Bristol.


Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol. Source: Harshil Shah (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Jemima Stockton presented our work developing a simple tool to measure individuals’ perceptions of their own and local busy roads at the. She also examined the various measures we have devised of community severance and looked at how these vary by how far away people live from the busiest road in their area. She also looked at whether it is associated with people’s well-being. The abstract of Jemima’s presentation can be found here.

Paulo Anciaes presented the results of a stated preference survey in our Finchley Road case study area to understand how long people are willing to walk to use the type of pedestrian crossing facility they prefer (or to avoid the type of crossing they dislike). The abstract is also online.

Ashley Dhanani presented his work developing a walkability model for London. His analysis found significant relationships between pedestrian density and components of walkability such as transport accessibility, street network configuration, land-use diversity and residential density.

In the same conference, Jemima also presented the main results of her PhD thesis, which developed a walkability model for London and its association with the amount and frequency of walking.

Finally, Shaun Scholes presented his work estimating changes in third-party fatality risk by sex, age, and travel mode in road accidents in the period 2005-2010.

Street Mobility @ TRB 2016, Washington

The following week, Jenny Mindell and Paulo Anciaes went to Washington for the annual Transportation Research Board (TRB) conference where they presented two papers related to the Street Mobility project.


Washington Monument. Source: Bill Couch (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Jenny Mindell presented the work developing a pen-and-paper self-completion questionnaire to assess the impact of community severance on health and wellbeing. This has been designed so that it can be used by local communities, by local government, or by health or transport researchers to assess the extent (if any) of problems caused by busy roads.

In the same conference, Paulo Anciaes presented a paper simulating the effects of two types of intervention to reduce barriers to walking: changing the layout of the street network (by increasing the density and connectivity of the links available to pedestrians) and redesigning a busy road (by adding crossing facilities, reducing speed limit, or reallocating road space to pedestrians). The analysis focused on our Woodberry Down case study area.


Street Mobility update: first outputs

During July, the Street Mobility team presented some of the outputs of the project in international conferences.

In early July, Ashley Dhanani participated in the International Making Cities Liveable Conference in Bristol and presented his new walkability index for London, which is based on input gathered from our community engagement activities. The results of workshops with local residents in our study areas suggested, for example that public transport accessibility should be added as a variable that contributes to walkability. The model also uses space syntax methods to examine the spatial relationships of streets at a range of scales, which provides a better representation of pedestrian wayfinding behaviour than the standard approach of measuring intersection density.

Also in early July, Jennifer Mindell co-organised, with Karyn Warsow (from Transportation Public Health Link), the 1st International Conference on Transport and Health, an event to set up a structure for discussion and bring people of diverse disciplines working on the link between transport and health. The conference was held at UCL from 6-8 July. Several members of the project attended this conference.

THSource: TPH Link

On the first day of the conference, Paulo Anciaes presented the results of our video surveys in Woodberry Down and Finchley Road to assess how pedestrians react to busy roads. The surveys showed for example, that pedestrian flows along Seven Sisters Road are relatively low comparing with parallel streets, if we take into account that all the main destinations for pedestrians in Woodberry Down (i.e. tube and bus stops) are located on that road. The surveys have also identified several types of risky crossing behaviours in both case study areas, such as crossing away from signalised crossing facilities.

On the last day of the conference, Sadie Boniface presented preliminary results from our survey to assess the effects of severance on health and wellbeing in our case study areas. The majority of respondents reported experiencing problems getting around their local area due to the danger from traffic, noise, and air pollution. They also knew more neighbours on their side of the road than on the opposite side.

In the end of July, Jennifer Mindell and Paulo Anciaes participated in the 14th International Conference on Mobility and Transport for Elderly and Disabled Persons (TRANSED 2015), which was held at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon.

8119051990_ccbbda7abe_oLisbon. CC BY 2.0 portobay

4745515680_14a49095b3_oCC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Art Library Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian

Paulo presented an overview of the Street Mobility project, explaining how the different activities of the project (community engagement, video surveys, street audits, health and wellbeing survey, stated preference survey, and spatial analysis) relate to each other and lead to a holistic understanding of the effects of busy roads on local communities.

In another session, Paulo presented the results of our literature review of the methods used by governments to measure the effects of busy roads on local accessibility, and the proposals that researchers have been making since the 1970s to improve those methods.

The literature review has just been published in the Transport Reviews journal.

As we wrote our literature review, we noticed that researchers have proposed many different definitions of “community severance” and have used different concepts (such as “barrier effect”) to describe what is assumed to be the same phenomenon. So we collected and analysed all these different definitions (we found 60 of them) and proposed a new definition, which we hope it will synthesize all past efforts. This is documented in a new working paper, which is now available in our website.

During the TRANSED conference, the team also met Pedro Gouveia who is working on the Lisbon Pedestrian Accessibility Plan, which includes a chapter on severance caused by motorways and railways. This will be the topic of a future blog post.

Community severance glossary now online

Post by Dr Sadie Boniface

We have put together a glossary to explain some of the terms from our respective disciplines that we use to talk about community severance, and also included definitions of relevant organisations and policy instruments. Hopefully this will be useful as a jargon and acronym buster for people working in transport or public health. Here’s the link:

Community severance glossary (pdf)

We consider this a work in progress, so if there are things you think we should add, please do get in touch by email or Twitter.

Our second case study: Finchley Road

Post by Dr Sadie Boniface

Another site we have visited is Finchley Road in the London Borough of Camden. Many of us on the Street Mobility team agree that the part of the road close to Finchley Road underground station is an obvious barrier to pedestrians due to the speed and volume of traffic, with physical barriers reinforcing this – a textbook example of community severance.

The section of Finchley Road we are interested in is roughly from Finchley Road & Frognal station in the north to Swiss Cottage in the south (boundaries TBC). At the moment, we are undecided as to how to define the edges of our case study area to the east and west. Our challenge here is how do we define ‘the community’ of pedestrians who may be experiencing severance in the absence of a specific population or clear geographic area (as there was in Woodberry Down) to study?

Google map showing approximate boundaries of Finchley Road case study area (boundaries TBC). Click the image for the full map
Google map showing approximate boundaries of Finchley Road case study area (boundaries TBC). Click the image for the full map

In this case study we would be mainly looking at the effects of the road, although there are some railway lines that may also be of relevance to Street Mobility. Finchley Road, like Seven Sisters Road (in Woodberry Down) is six lanes wide and very busy, with around 37,000 vehicles a day (based on 2012 data, though using the same data for 2011 there were 54,000 vehicles).

Public transport provision is good, with the underground and several bus routes. There are many shops and restaurants on both sides of the road, and a number of these have signs, seating, or items for sale out on the street. However, in terms of other features along the street, there are few trees or benches. Along Finchley Road barriers have been put in place as a safety measure to prevent pedestrians crossing the road away from designated crossings (‘informal crossing’).

Finchley Road looking North. Note the barrier at the side of the road.
Finchley Road looking North. Note the barriers at the side of the road.

According to the 2011 Census, some parts of the area have a high proportion of older people, while other parts have a lower proportion. The Index of Multiple Deprivation 2010 data suggest that – as in many parts of London – there are relatively deprived and relatively affluent parts of this area coexisting side by side (maps here).

Members of the Street Mobility team hope to meet the borough’s public health team soon to discuss the area as a case study. This area is a very different case to Woodberry Down which as we saw in an earlier post is undergoing extensive redevelopment. This presents us with different opportunities to speak to an established community about whether severance issues affect them, and new challenges in making contact with this community which will be led by Mapping for Change. We are looking forward to investigating whether and how community severance affects this area, and will post updates about our workshops soon. Please come back soon or follow us on Twitter @StreetMobility.

Announcing our first case study: Woodberry Down

Post by Dr Sadie Boniface

We have been busy visiting potential case study areas and feeding back on the suitability of the different areas to the wider Street Mobility team. I am pleased to say that this has been very productive and we now have our first case study confirmed: Woodberry Down, in the London borough of Hackney. The approximate boundaries of the area we plan to study are shown below:

Google map showing approximate boundaries of Woodberry Down  case study area (click for full map)
Google map showing approximate boundaries of Woodberry Down case study area (click the image for the full map)

The area is bounded by reservoirs to the South, a river to the North, and Green Lanes to the West. Seven Sisters Road, a six-lane road which carries around 40,000 vehicles a day (based on 2012 data), runs through the middle of the area. This road is the most apparent feature that might be causing community severance.

Public transport provision is good, with Manor House underground station close by and a number of bus routes running along Seven Sisters Road. However there are a number of features of the existing pedestrian environment that could be contributing to community severance. When we visited the area we identified that there are few benches along Seven Sisters Road, and while there is a lot of green space in the surrounding area (e.g. Finsbury Park), there is little along the road itself. We also noticed that the locations of pedestrian crossings were not always consistent with the locations of bus stops, which can encourage people to cross the road at other places (known as informal crossing).

Seven Sisters Road running through the Woodberry Down area
Seven Sisters Road running through the Woodberry Down area

According to the 2011 census, the population of Woodberry Down was 3,733 (counting the neighbourhoods inside the triangle formed by the New River and Green Lanes). Hackney in general, the population in Woodberry Down is relatively young, with less than 25% of the population over 50 years of age in most parts of the neighbourhood. In Street Mobility we are primarily interested in barriers to walking among older people, so we might have to make extra effort to make contact with this group.

The area is undergoing enormous redevelopment by Berkeley Homes and Genesis Housing Association. According to Hackney Council, the phased demolition of 1,981 homes has begun (mainly post-war social housing) and more than 4,600 social rented, private and shared ownership new homes are being built. There will be many new residents in Woodberry Down and the demographic composition is likely to change. In addition, the redevelopment will bring changes to the commercial and leisure facilities in the area and there have also been talks of narrowing the Seven Sisters Road to four lanes (from six). We are optimistic about making contact with community groups and networks formed in response to consultations on the redevelopment in our upcoming workshops that will be led by Mapping for Change. Members of the Street Mobility team hope to meet the borough’s public health team soon as well.

In a time of such change, the Street Mobility team is really excited to come to Woodberry Down to investigate community severance. We will post updates about our community workshops very soon – watch this space!